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Open Access Review

Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis as a trigger of type-1 diabetes: destination Sardinia, or beyond?

Pittu Sandhya Rani1, Leonardo A Sechi2* and Niyaz Ahmed1*

Author Affiliations

1 Pathogen Biology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy

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Gut Pathogens 2010, 2:1  doi:10.1186/1757-4749-2-1

Published: 29 March 2010

Abstract

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a multifactorial autoimmune disease in which the insulin producing β cell population is destroyed by the infiltrated T lymphocytes. Even though the exact cause of T1DM is yet to be ascertained, varying degree of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors have been linked to the disease progress and outcome. Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is an obligate zoonotic pathogen that causes chronic infection of intestines in ruminants, the Johne's disease. MAP that can even survive pasteurization and chlorination has also been implicated to cause similar type of enteritis in humans called Crohn's disease. With the increasing recognition of the link between MAP and Crohn's disease, it has been postulated that MAP is an occult antigen which besides Crohn's could as well be thought to trigger T1DM. Epitope homologies between mycobacterial proteins (Hsp 65) and pancreatic glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD 65) and infant nutrition studies implicate MAP as one of the triggers for T1DM. PCR and ELISA analyses in diabetic patients from Sardinia suggest that MAP acts as a possible trigger for T1DM. Systematic mechanistic insights are needed to prove this link. Unfortunately, no easy animal model(s) or in-vitro systems are available to decipher the complex immunological network that is triggered in MAP infection leading to T1DM.